Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brewster's Millions by George Barr McCutcheon

About the book: Would you be able to spend a million dollars in cash and leave yourself penniless, if it meant you would then be given many more millions? That's poor Monty Brewster's dilemma in this charming tale which has been made into a movie six times.

Quote from the book: "Monty was on deck when the inspiration seized him, and he lost no time in telling his guests, who were at breakfast. Although he had misgivings about their opinion of the scheme, he was not prepared for the ominous silence that followed his announcement."

My thoughts: My book, which was printed in 1902, has been on my bookshelf for several years. Now I'm sorry that it has taken me this long to get to it! I found this to be a light, entertaining read. It may be dated, but after all it was written over 100 years ago.

Monty Brewster inherited a million dollars from his grandfather. Then he learns that an uncle has left him $7 million but only if he spends, with conditions, all the money left by his grandfather. Watching him try to divest himself of his 1 million dollars, to the great disapproval of his friends, is interesting indeed. I liked the ending. Monty learns who his true friends are and finds his true love, and gets the money. What could be better?

With the reading of this book I have officially finished all my reading challenges for this year, with two months to spare! All my challenges for the year are listed HERE.

Hardcover: 307 pages
Publisher: Grosset and Dunlap; 1ST Edition edition (1902)
Language: English


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

About the book: A true story — as powerful as Schindler's List— in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands.
When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw — and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen guests hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants — otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.
With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.

Quotes from book: "Under the Third Reich, animals became noble, mythic, almost angelic--including humans, of course, but not Slavs, Gypsies, Catholics, or Jews."

"In all around 300 people passed through the way station of the Warsaw zoo on route to the rest of their nomadic lives. Jan always felt, and said publicly, that the real heroin on this saga was his wife, Antonina."

My Thoughts: I listened to this on my iPod and found it to be very interesting and heartbreaking. The story of the Zabinskis is remarkable deserves to be told. The zookeeper, Jan, became active in the underground and his wife, Antonina, devised intricate strategies to shelter Jews as they were able to taken from the Warsaw ghetto across the river. I liked learning about this family and other heroes of that horrible time.

Click HERE to see an interivew with the author about this book.

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. (September 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 039333306X
ISBN-13: 978-0393333060

Battle on the Bay; The Civil War Struggle for Galveston by Edward T. Cotham, Jr.

About the book: The Civil War history of Galveston is one of the last untold stories from America's bloodiest war, despite the fact that Galveston was a focal point of hostilities throughout the conflict. As other Southern ports fell to the Union, Galveston emerged as one of the Confederacy's only lifelines to the outside world. When the war ended in 1865, Galveston was the only major port still in Confederate hands.
In this beautifully written narrative history, Ed Cotham draws upon years of archival and on-site research, as well as rare historical photographs, drawings, and maps, to chronicle the Civil War years in Galveston. His story encompasses all the military engagements that took place in the city and on Galveston Bay, including the dramatic Battle of Galveston, in which Confederate forces retook the city on New Year's Day, 1863.
Cotham sets the events in Galveston within the overall conduct of the war, revealing how the city's loss was a great strategic impediment to the North. Through his pages pass major figures of the era, as well as ordinary soldiers, sailors, and citizens of Galveston, whose courage in the face of privation and danger adds an inspiring dimension to the story.
Quote from the book: "Despite its unique features, there are many reasons why the Battle of Galveston in 1863 has not received the attention lavished on more familiar conflicts in other theaters of the war. Texas was far from the center of military action, not to mention the major media centers (North and South) of nineteenth-century America. More importantly, the strange, almost comical, manner in which this battle was conducted did not lend itself easily to crafting dramatic tales of heroism or martial skill for either side."
My thoughts: I chose this book for my 5x4 Reading Challenge, the History section. (History is a genre that really challenges me.) This tidbit of Texas history looked interesting (& the book was short) so I got it. I do like to learn about Texas history, but mostly by visiting places in my home state. I think this book would mostly appeal to Galvestonians, Texas history buffs and those interested in the Civil war.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Killing Floor by Lee Child

About the book: Welcome to Margrave, Georgia—but don't get too attached to the townsfolk, who are either in on a giant conspiracy, or hurtling toward violent deaths, or both. There's not much of a welcome for Jack Reacher, a casualty of the Army's peace dividend who's drifted into town idly looking for traces of a long dead black jazzman. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. Two surprises follow: The murdered man wasn't the only victim, and he was Reacher's brother whom he hadn't seen in seven years. So Reacher, who so far hasn't had anything personal against the crooks who set him up for a weekend in the state pen at Warburton, clicks into overdrive. Banking on the help of the only two people in Margrave he can trust—a Harvard-educated chief of detectives who hasn't been on the job long enough to be on the take, and a smart, scrappy officer who's taken him to her bed— he sets out methodically in his brother's footsteps, trying to figure out why his cellmate in Warburton, a panicky banker whose cell-phone number turned up in Joe's shoe, confessed to a murder he obviously didn't commit; trying to figure out why all the out-of-towners on Joe's list of recent contacts were as dead as he was; and trying to stop the local carnage or at least direct it in more positive ways. Though the testosterone flows as freely as printer's ink, Reacher is an unobtrusively sharp detective in his quieter moments—not that there are many of them to judge by.

My Thoughts: I've read two or three of the Reacher novels but this is the first one written. I enjoyed it, it was a simple straight forward murder mystery/thriller/adventure. It was perfect to listen to because there weren't an over abundance of characters or plot lines. Jack himself is a mystery and I've wondered about him in each novel I've read. Mainly I wonder how he can travel about without even a change of clothes to his name. I'd think he would have at least a backpack. But I worry about unimportant things. I like Jack, even if he doesn't carry a change of clothes with him, he is a strong character and always a good guy. If you like murder mysteries, you'll like this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kazan the Wolf Dog by James Oliver Curwood

About the book: This novel follows the life of Kazan, a wolf-dog hybrid, who constantly struggles between the call of the wild and the comforts of the civilized world. Trained as a sledge dog in the Canadian wilderness, Kazan has learned to keep man at arm's length. He knows they provide him with food and shelter, but they also bring with them serious abuse and mistreatment. Despite his deep-seeded suspicions, Kazan develops a love and affection for the caress and tenderness he finds in a woman named Joan, the wife of one of his masters. Yet, his love for Joan is not enough to quell his desire to experience life beyond the safety of his domestic life. Seizing an unexpected opportunity, Kazan bounds off to freedom and the unknown. Once in the wild, Kazan quickly adapts to a life that finds him always on the brink of starvation, battling arctic temperatures, and learning to exist in a delicate balance of nature. Kazan develops a lust for the hunt, learns to survive the harsh Canadian winters, and even finds a life mate in ever-faithful Gray Wolf. The two of them experience all the happiness and cruelty a life-in-the-wild brings with it. Yet, despite Kazan's yearning to remain in the wilderness and the loyalty he feels toward Gray Wolf, who through an unexpected blindness becomes increasingly dependent upon Kazan for her survival, he still finds himself torn between two separate worlds. It is this longing that repeatedly draws Kazan back to civilization. Kazan is always listening, searching for Joan and the peace he felt in her presence. Through many thrilling adventures and gut-wrenching tragedies, Kazan is led in a direction that will ultimately determine his fate and help him decide where he truly belongs. This novel is ideal for older teens and Young Adults who have an interest in animals or wildlife. James Oliver Curwood is a genius at bringing the reader into the mind of Kazan and Gray Wolf, as well as the humans they interact with throughout their adventures. Well written and compelling, this novel is worth a read. 2005, Newmarket Press, Ages 15 up. Emily Cook
My thoughts: I remember reading this book as a child, 12 or 13, and being facinated. At the time we lived in Alaska, so that added to my facination. I read this as part of a personal reading challenge, Books On My Shelf That Are Older Than Me. The orignal story was published in 1914 but my copy was printed in 1942. What a great sense of time and place this story gave me. It is an excellent adventure set in the rugged North. I'm happy to have rekindled my love of this book.
Read about James Oliver Curwood HERE.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

About the book: Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces of wood to incorporate into the boat he is building, while the girls from Dora Flood's bordello venture out now and then to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Lee Chong stocks his grocery with almost anything a man could want, and Doc, a young marine biologist who ministers to sick puppies and unhappy souls, unexpectedly finds true love. Cannery Row is just a few blocks long, but the story it harbors is suffused with warmth, understanding, and a great fund of human values. First published in 1945, Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is--both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. John Steinbeck draws on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, and interweaves their stories in this world where only the fittest survive--creating what is at once one of his most humorous and poignant works. In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck returns to the setting of Tortilla Flat to create another evocative portrait of life as it is lived by those who unabashedly put the highest value on the intangibles--human warmth, camaraderie, and love.

My Thoughts: I was sorry when this book ended! I have to have more, so will get Sweet Thursday ASAP. Above in the description it says that Doc finds true love. That doesn't happen in Cannery Row. I think it happens in Sweet thursday. I read this on my Kindle.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry

Product Description: In 323 B.C.E, having conquered Persia, Alexander the Great set his sights on Arabia, then suddenly succumbed to a strange fever. Locating his final resting place–unknown to this day–remains a tantalizing goal for both archaeologists and treasure hunters. Now the quest for this coveted prize is about to heat up. And Cotton Malone–former U.S. Justice Department agent turned rare-book dealer–will be drawn into an intense geopolitical chess game. After narrowly escaping incineration in a devastating fire that consumes a Danish museum, Cotton learns from his friend, the beguiling adventurer Cassiopeia Vitt, that the blaze was neither an accident nor an isolated incident. As part of campaign of arson intended to mask a far more diabolical design, buildings across Europe are being devoured by infernos of unnatural strength.And from the ashes of the U.S.S.R., a new nation has arisen: Former Soviet republics have consolidated into the Central Asian Federation. At its helm is Supreme Minister Irina Zovastina, a cunning despot with a talent for politics, a taste for blood sport, and the single-minded desire to surpass Alexander the Great as history’s ultimate conqueror. Backed by a secret cabal of powerbrokers, the Federation has amassed a harrowing arsenal of biological weapons. Equipped with the hellish power to decimate other nations at will, only one thing keeps Zovastina from setting in motion her death march of domination: a miraculous healing serum, kept secret by an ancient puzzle and buried with the mummified remains of Alexander the Great–in a tomb lost to the ages for more than 1,500 years.Together, Cotton and Cassiopeia must outrun and outthink the forces allied against them. Their perilous quest will take them to the shores of Denmark, deep into the venerated monuments of Venice, and finally high inside the desolate Pamir mountains of Central Asia to unravel a riddle whose solution could destroy or save millions of people–depending on who finds the lost tomb first.
My Thoughts: I thouroughly enjoyed the other two Berry books I read, The Amber Room and The Romanov Prophecy. This one was a pretty good thriller, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two. There were too many double crosses, too many characters etc. What I did enjoy, as with the others, were the tidbits of real history used to spring load the adventure.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Night Gardner

About the book: George Pelecanos' biggest novel ever: the haunting story of three cops—one good, one bad, one broken—and the murder that reunites them in a showdown decades in the making.
Gus Ramone is "good police," a former Internal Affairs investigator now working homicide for the city's Violent Crime branch. His new case involves the death of a local teenager named Asa, whose body has been found in a local community garden.
The murder unearths intense memories of a case Ramone worked as a patrol cop twenty years earlier, when he and his partner, Dan "Doc" Holiday, assisted a legendary detective named T. C. Cook. The series of murders, all involving local teenage victims, was never solved. In the years since, Holiday has left the force under a cloud of morals charges, and now finds work as a bodyguard and driver. Cook has retired, but he has never stopped agonizing about the "Night Gardener" killings.
The new case draws the three men together on a grim mission to finish the work that has haunted them for years. All the love, regret, and anger that once burned between them comes rushing back, and old ghosts walk once more as the men try to lay to rest the monster who has stalked their dreams. Bigger and even more unstoppable than his previous thrillers, George Pelecanos achieves in The Night Gardener what his brilliant career has been building toward: a novel that is a perfect union of suspense, character, and unstoppable fate.
My Thoughts: This was much more than a murder mystery/thriller. More than anything it seems to be a commentary on how we live as people, how racial lines are drawn. I had to write down the characters with short notes to keep track of everyone. In the end, I found it unfulfilling and sad.
**SPOILER** I felt this way because, as hard as these men worked to find the murdered from 20 years ago (who they thought murdered the child in the present) they didn't do it. The last pages, with the old murderer standing over the place where the child had died was like a slap in the face.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bring It On by Laura Anne Gilman

About the book: Nobody said juggling a career and a relationship would be easy...Wren Valere used to have a simple life. Her partner Sergei would negotiate the terms of the Retrieval--all right, the theft--and she would use her magical Talent to carry it out. Paycheck deposited, on to the next job.Now? Her relationship with Sergei is even more complicated (sex will do that). Her fellow lonejacks are trying to organize against the Mage's Council. The nonhuman population of Manhattan is getting fed up with being ignored and abused. And the Council? Well, they have an agenda of their own, and it-s not one the lonejacks are going to like.When it comes down to choosing sides, the first rule of the lonejack credo is "Don't get involved." But when friends are in danger, and the city you love is at risk, sometimes getting into the thick of things is all you can do....
My thoughts: This, the third book in the Retrievers series, really kept me engaged. The paycheck mentioned in the product description comes from a job she has taken without consulting Sergei. The story of this retrieval twins through out the book and doesn't add much to the story the book is mainly about. The story line of a pending war between the Council and the independent retrievers (Lonejacks), and the fatae community (non humans) keeps building, with Wren becoming a target as someone tries to take her out. Yes, I'll have to get the next one!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Degrees of Separation by Sue Henry

Synopsis:A brand new Jesse Arnold mystery from award-winning author Sue Henry.
Champion musher Jesse Arnold has been out of racing for a number of years, ever since she incurred a devastating knee injury. Now she’s ready to get back in shape for this year’s Iditarod. While taking her team on a practice run down a local trail she takes a snowy bump that’s never been there before. It turns out to be a snow-shrouded body. Now, Jesse and her boyfriend, Alaska State Trooper Alex Jensen, are back chasing criminals. And the hunt is on for the killer of a supposed earthquake victim, who was actually murdered. The twelfth audiobook in this critically acclaimed series is sure to delight Sue Henry’s many fans.

My Thoughts: I have been eating up this series for several years but have to say that this is not anywhere near being a favorite. It was very vanilla with un-clues thrown in throughout the story. One of the main things, the near murder of Becker, was never solved. Oh well, I'm waiting for a better one next time. If you want to start on this series start with Murder on the Iditarod Trail, or Murder on the Yukon Quest. One of my favorites was Deadfall - very suspenseful.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Curse the Dark by Laura Anne Gilman

About the book: Wren Valere used to have a simple life. Her partner Sergei would negotiate the terms of the Retrieval -- all right, the theft -- and she would use her magical talent to carry it out. Paycheck deposited, on to the next job. Now? Her relationship with Sergei is even more complicated (sex will do that). Her fellow lonejacks are trying to organize against the Mage's Council. The nonhuman population of Manhattan is getting fed up with being ignored and abused. And the Council? Well, they have an agenda of their own, and it's not one the lonejacks are going to like. And Sergei is far too involved with the Silence, his former employers, for Wren's liking.When it comes down to choosing sides, the first rule of the lonejack credo is "Don't get involved." But when friends are in danger, and the city you love is at risk, sometimes getting into the thick of things is all you can do.

My Thoughts: This is the second book in the Retrievers series and it was interesting. It kept me coming back. The main story, finding a stolen ancient document, helped build the ongoing story of the tension between the lonejack community and the Council nicely. Can't wait to get on with the next one!

Brimstone by Robert B Parker

Description: New York Times–bestselling author Robert B. Parker takes aim at the Old West with this brilliantly crafted follow-up to Resolution and Appaloosa, again featuring guns-for-hire Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.
When we last saw Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, they had just put things to right in the rough-and-tumble Old West town of Resolution. It's now a year later, and Virgil has only one thing on his mind: Allie French, the woman who stole his heart from their days in Appaloosa. Even though Allie ran off with another man, Virgil is determined to find her, his deputy and partner Everett Hitch at his side. Making their way across New Mexico and Texas, the pair finally discover Allie in a small-town brothel. Her spirit crushed, Allie joins Everett and Virgil as they head north to start over in Brimstone. But things are not the same between Virgil and Allie; too much has happened, and Virgil can't face what Allie did to survive the year they were apart. Vowing to change, Allie thinks she has found redemption through the local church and its sanctimonious leader, Brother Percival. Given their reputations as guns for hire, Everett and Virgil are able to secure positions as the town's deputies. But Brother Percival stirs up trouble at the local saloons, and as the violence escalates into murder, the two struggle to keep the peace.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed the first tow novels in this series, so when I saw Brimstone at iTunes I quickly downloaded it. I wasn't sorry. I liked the way the story lines were woven together. I like the unflinching, unadorned goodness of Virgil and Hitch. I find it hard to like Allie at all. Maybe she will actually will change now. I did find this book a little rougher with more language. I'm hoping that there might be one more book to tell how they all do once they leave Brimstone.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Obsessed by Ted Dekker

About the book: A deadly tale of ultimate obsession. Stephen Friedman is making a good living in good times. He's just an ordinary guy. Or so he thinks. But one day an extraordinary piece of information tells him differently. It's a clue from the grave of a Holocaust survivor. A clue that makes him heir to an incredible fortune...a clue that only he and one other man can possibly understand. That man is Roth Braun, a serial killer who has been waiting for Stephen for thirty years. Roth was stopped once before. This time nothing will get in his way.
My thoughts: I have read several of Dekker's books and enjoyed them all. Thr3e is still my favorite. This book had a great story line and I enjoyed the way Dekker alternated between the '40s in the concentration camp and the present in the '70s. The main bad guy, was truly evil with descriptions on satanic mindset and rituals. With Dekker being a Christian author I think it would have been better if the spiritual side was included more, if the only weapon that we have against such forces had been written in, and that is our salvation in Jesus Christ. But it was not balanced at all. The main character, Stephen/David, while likable and sympathetic, kept making one bad choice after another. It became somewhat irratating. So my feelings about this book are somewhat conflicted.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsey

About the book: After his surprisingly glorious honeymoon in Paris, life is almost normal for Dexter Morgan. Married life seems to agree with him: he’s devoted to his bride, his stomach is full, and his homicidal hobbies are nicely under control. But old habits die hard—and Dexter’s work as a blood spatter analyst never fails to offer new temptations that appeal to his offbeat sense of justice…and his Dark Passenger still waits to hunt with him in the moonlight. The discovery of a corpse (artfully displayed as a sunbather relaxing on a Miami beach chair) naturally piques Dexter’s curiosity and Miami’s finest realize they’ve got a terrifying new serial killer on the loose. And Dexter, of course, is back in business.

My thoughts: I've been waiting to read this, the next installment in the Dexter series and found it to be a great addition. Dexter's persona was fleshed out a little more and we see a side of Dexter we havent seen before. I've never been much for "modern" art and after reading more about the newer movements in that area I will be sure to avoid it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Publisher Comments: A new collection from David Sedaris is cause for jubilation. His recent move to Paris has inspired hilarious pieces, including "Me Talk Pretty One Day", about his attempts to learn French. His family is another inspiration. "You Can't Kill the Rooster" is a portrait of his brother who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers and cashiers with 6-inch fingernails. Compared by The New Yorker to Twain and Hawthorne, Sedaris has become one of our best-loved authors. And he's an NPR star. Sedaris's commentaries and observations are featured regularly on NPR, and he remains a top correspondent for Ira Glass's series "This American Life". Sedaris is an amazing reader whose appearances draw hundreds, and his performances — including a jaw-dropping impression of Billie Holiday singing "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner" — are unforgettable. Sedaris's essays on living in Paris are some of the funniest he's ever written. At last, someone even meaner than the French!
My Thoughts: I read Sedaris' "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" last year and enjoyed it. I listened to the author read this one on my iPod and it was wonderful, at times laugh out loud funny and at times heart breaking.You can not miss his attempts at conversation in French, YIKES! The book is divided into two parts. The first consists of essays about Sedaris’ life before his move to Normandy, France. The second section, "Deux" tells of Sedaris’ move to Normandy with his lover. I loved these short stories and essays.